Back in June last year, while the Survivor: Winners At War cast were battling it out on the islands of Fiji, I reached out to a selection of former Survivor players to get their thoughts and predictions on the returning castaways. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting those interviews here on Inside Survivor.
Today, we’re talking to Erik Reichenbach, who played with Parvati Shallow in Survivor: Micronesia. Erik and Parvati will forever be linked together in Survivor lore due to the infamous final five Tribal Council in the first Fans vs. Favorites season. After securing another Immunity win, Erik looked primed to go on an underdog run to the end, until it all came crashing down in spectacular fashion. We all know the story, Parvati and the Black Widow Brigade alliance tricked Erik into giving up his Immunity Necklace and then subsequently voted him out. In the end, Erik gave his jury vote to Amanda, but it wasn’t enough to stop Parvati from taking the crown in a 5-3 vote.
Inside Survivor reached out to Erik to get his thoughts on Parvati’s return to Survivor: Winners At War.
Disclaimer: The answers to this interview were received post-filming, but we don’t believe there is any spoiler content within the answers.
1) Hi Erik, thanks for doing this! What was your opinion of Parvati coming into Micronesia, and how did it change, if at all, throughout the game?
I honestly thought of Parvati as a non-player/non-entity. This wasn’t to Parvati’s discredit, though. As a 21-year-old kid that grew up watching Survivor (and seeing Cook Islands not too long before applying), I just didn’t put Parvati on the same level as contestants I considered physical challenge beasts or strategic masterminds. I had a very narrow view of what it takes to play Survivor, and considered Parv’s treatment and edit in Cook Islands as a distraction from the rest of the players actually playing the game. I judged her as some flirty girl that somehow managed to make it that far and was trying her best to stick around.
This belief persisted into Micronesia for the entirety of filming, and because Parvati and I didn’t talk much or strategize (I think I had one meaningful conversation with her the entire time out there), I wasn’t privy to her game. I had heard she was a threat from Ami Cusak previously, and then from James, but it didn’t really make sense to me what she was doing until after Micronesia aired.
2) Jeff Probst is always calling Parvati the “flirtatious threat,” basically calling her a beauty and sometimes brawn while underplaying her brains. Where do you think she stacks up on those three metrics?
Again, not to downplay or discredit Parvati, but her strength is her social savvy and familiarity. I think she is an incredibly rounded player with no extreme advantages or disadvantages, which makes her a great mix, but is very aware of other’s moods and her own standing with them.
3) Parvati has played a total of 114 days across 3 seasons, an impressive record. What is it about Parvati that has allowed her to make deep runs every time she’s played?
While I haven’t watched all of Heroes vs. Villains to make a fully informed answer (yes, I know it’s a great season!), I think it’s her personality combined with knowledge of the game that gives her success. Survivor is extremely social, and I would argue that social judgment is the most important aspect that all winners have. While Parvati can win an odd challenge here or there and has apt strategy, her social abilities and approachable personality make her extremely threatening on Survivor. If she can’t find a good strategy to win, she’s likely allied with someone who can. If she can’t win a challenge, she likely has a connection to the player who can and will be brought on reward.
4) In a recent-ish blog post, Parvati talked about her “mean girl behavior” towards Eliza during Micronesia and how she regretted it after the show. Did you ever observe this “mean girl behavior”? What were your thoughts on Parvati’s social game and how she acted around camp?
It is funny you mention this because I did observe this behavior, and actually at the time was so mad reading that exact blog (it popped up in my Twitter feed, I believe) I had a few thoughts on it still.
Basically, I thought the post from Parvati was extremely vague and detail-lacking and was more used as a moralizing story of why bullying behavior is bad than an apology. What’s ironic is that the bullying behavior is what gave Parvati the Micronesia win in a lot of ways—her manipulation of others and cultivating a popularity schema worked greatly in her favor on Micronesia. The bullying “mean girl behavior” she showed was integral to her victory.
Despite not having a strong relationship with Parvati, I did see selective ostracizing of Eliza, Jason, and sometimes others. Amanda and Parvati together did this the most from what I saw. That behavior included Eliza being ignored while speaking to Parvati, being called names, and being generally ridiculed.
5) About a year ago, Parvati told People that one of the only reasons she’d return is for an “all-winners” season so she can take down her “nemesis” Sandra. With both women on this season, how do you see their relationship playing out? Is it smart for Parv to target Sandra, or do you think they’d be better working together?
I think they are much better working together, but it would be entertaining to see them try to vote each other out. Sandra and Parvati already won one season, so I think it’s possible they could do that same thing again. On the other hand, other returning winners know this, so they may target them if they try to team up.
6) In Parvati’s first three go-rounds, she was a single woman in her 20s, and now she is newly married and with a newborn. Do you think this will change the way she plays the game? Do you think it’ll change the way others perceive her?
Good players learn, change, and evolve the more they play. I think Parvati will definitely be different in how she does some things but hope she has the same passion for the game as she did in Cook Islands, Micronesia, and HvV. My thought has always been that returning winners aren’t as “thirsty” for a win as other players who placed 2nd or lower. Hopefully, the 2 million dollar prize is incentive enough.
7) What is Parvati’s biggest strength and her biggest weakness?
Strength: clearly, her personality and social acumen.
Biggest weakness: her reputation and past—it makes others leery to trust her.
8) Who on this cast do you see Parvati gravitating towards? Who do you think would make a good ally for her, and why?
I think Parvati will do well if she works with other women. I only make this statement on the assumption she has done well when teaming up with the girls, and I do think this will lead to her and Sandra making a pact in some way to run the game.
9) Who on this cast poses the biggest threat to Parvati, and why? Is there anyone you see her butting heads with (there are a lot of people she’s played with before including Rob, Tyson, and Yul)?
Parvati doesn’t take things exceptionally personally, and I don’t think she will not work with anyone on basis of personality. I could be very wrong about this, as I don’t know Parvati well enough (or her time on HvV) to make an accurate assessment.
10) Before I let you go, what is new in the world of Erik? And do you still enjoy seeing your Immunity Necklace blunder every season?
I am currently finishing up the second Issue of “Seed of Sam,” a fun lowbrow comic I’ve always wanted to make. Issue 1 will be available for digital download Feb. 1st. And the second issue on Valentine’s Day. I also sell my Survivor comics on my website, www.DabuDoodles.com, and those comics accompany weekly Survivor Blogs at www.realitytea.com. Regarding the necklace scene, I laugh when I see it. The most fun is watching the Twitter reactions when that scene is shown—it’s oddly satisfying to be a unique and memorable part of the show.
Thanks again to Erik for taking part. That is it for our Playing with Champions interviews!
Survivor: Winners At War premieres February 12, 2020, on CBS.